We had so many more cool stories left over from Mark Schulman’s May 2019 feature cover story that we decided to share them here.
Besides being a member of P!nk’s touring band for the past twelve years, Schulman has had a significant freelance touring or recording career. Among the acts he’s worked with are Richard Marx, Foreigner, Billy Idol, Simple Minds, producer Keith Forsey, Cher, and Stevie Nicks, each of whom he talks about below.
On Richard Marx
The Richard Marx story is very interesting. His manager, Alan Kovac, contacted me to play with a band called Times Two, which was an R&B band. When I went to meet Alan, I had butterflies in my stomach; he was basically going to offer me a gig. When I got to his office, the butterflies turned to bats because I was very anxious. I had heard from a couple of different sources that one of his A-list artists was going to be needing a new drummer, and so that was my quandary. Do I tell him I want to play with one of his A-list artists, the high-revenue-generating artist, the one that’s selling out the arena tours? I had only done one tour so far at that point, so I would be considered a newbie! So my quandary was, should I accept the gig that he’s offering me, or tell him that I really want to play with one of his A-list artists?
I ended up accepting the gig that he was offering me, and we signed a deal and I went home and I was all excited. I would start rehearsing the following week. But that night, lying in bed, I knew I made the wrong decision. I was thinking to myself, What do I do now? I decided in the morning I would call Alan and tell him the truth.
I was scared, my heart was beating out of my chest, but I got him on the phone and I said, “Alan, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to go out with Times Two, but I heard from two different sources that one of your A-list artists was going to be going on the road, and I really want the opportunity to go out with Richard Marx.” At the time, Richard Marx was selling out arenas, and he had a number of top-ten hits. I thought Alan was going to hang up on me or cuss me out. I thought my career might be over, but he laughed and said, “Well, I thought you were just an R&B drummer, I don’t know you as a rock drummer.”
Then he says, “It’s true, Richard’s drummer is leaving, though he’s going to be doing one more small promotional gig for the radio stations.” The drummer was Michael Derosier, who was the original drummer in Heart. He’d decided he wanted to get off the road. So Alan says, “Look, man, if you want a chance to audition for Richard, I’ll give you a chance, but I’ve got to find somebody else for Times Two right now.”
I felt nervous for a minute, but then I realized I’d already made my decision. I knew I really wanted to play with Richard Marx. I calmed down, my heart slowed down, my palms stopped sweating, and then I came up with an idea. I blurted out, “Hey Alan, why don’t you let me play this promotional show, and that will be like my audition? That’ll save you the time and the energy and the expense of auditioning all these other drummers? If it doesn’t work out, you can just go back with your original plan?”
I thought maybe he was going to hang up on me again, but he said, “Now, that’s an interesting idea. I’ll tell you what, I’ll call you back.” I hung up, I was grinning from ear to ear. He called me back a few hours later and he said, “Richard wants to meet you. Can you be at my office tomorrow at 11 a.m.?” I said, “You bet!” So when I go to meet Richard, it turns out that he was good friends with Bobby Colomby, who was one of my original influences and the leader and drummer for Blood, Sweat and Tears. He was the vice president of CBS Records. Colomby had seen me play with Jeff Lorber, and apparently Bobby recommended me as well. Richard said, “Okay,” and he gave me a shot and let me play that one promotional gig. That gig went very well and then they offered me the tour! I spent the next fifteen months playing with a headlining act, playing nearly all sold-out arena shows to ninety percent screaming girls. I love that story!
On Foreigner, Keith Forsey, and Simple Minds
With Foreigner, everything sequentially led into everything else. I had been playing with a singer-songwriter at Leeds rehearsal studio, which was a famous rehearsal studio at the time, and I befriended the manager at the studio. The manager told me, “Foreigner is going to be auditioning drummers.”
At the time, I was playing with Bobby Caldwell, but not that frequently. I loved playing with Bobby. He was an R&B/pop singer, really grooving, a great boss and a great singer. I thought, “Oh, what the heck, I’ll audition for Foreigner, it sounds like fun.”
I hadn’t really thought about Foreigner in many years. But I’d been a big fan when I was younger. I went to audition for them and Lou Gramm, the original singer, wasn’t in the band, it was just this bass player, a singer at the time named Johnny Edwards, and guitarist Mick Jones, the leader of the band. They didn’t want to play any Foreigner songs, so we just jammed, and we had a ball.
I remember my goal was just to have some fun, because I already had a gig, so therefore I was very free about getting this gig but I didn’t feel like I had to get it. I love that feeling of freedom. We jammed, and what I didn’t realize is that they’d been recording it. When we were done, Mick played back the recording for all of us and we were like, “Man, this sounds really great.” I thought, Wow, there’s a little bit of magic going on here.
Then I got called back, they narrowed it down to me and one other drummer, and they brought us into the recording studio. For twelve hours I recorded with some of the other players, and that went really well. Then I got a call-back from Mick’s brother, Kevin Jones, who says, “Mark, you got the gig.”
I was very excited, but about a month went by and I didn’t hear anything. Then a friend of mine, a bass player named Mark Brown, says, “Hey, man, I saw Foreigner recording when I was doing a session over at Conway Studios in Los Angeles. I was shocked and bit angry. He said they were recording with producer Keith Forsey with Tal Bergman on drums.” So I called Kevin Jones and said, “Kevin I thought I got the Foreigner gig. Why are you recording without me?” He said, “Well, Keith Forsey has never heard of you, so he wanted to use a guy that he trusted in the studio.” Tal’s a fantastic drummer and has been a friend of mine for years. I say, “I understand, but would you mind giving me Keith’s number?” Kevin agreed to do that.
I’m a guy that will go to great lengths to fearlessly build my network and let people know that I exist, so I mustered up the courage and called up Keith. I got his answering machine and said, “Keith, this is Mark Schulman. I realize that you like to use Tal Bergman on drums because you’re comfortable with him, and he is great. I’m actually the guy that got the gig with Foreigner. I know that you have no experience with my playing, but please give me a shot. If you ever need a drummer, if there’s ever a session that Tal can’t do, please feel free to give me a call,” and I hung up the phone.
I’ll be damned, but three months later I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. [I let it go to voicemail and when I listened back] there was a message from Keith. He’s a real high-energy British bloke. His message said, “Hey, Mark, its Keith Forsey. Listen, Tal can’t do this session and I’m producing a song by the Pointer Sisters for the movie Beverly Hills Cop Three. Can you come down and play the drum track?”
I called him right back and he asked if I could come down right away, so I called my cartage buddy, Mike Fasano, and got down to the studio as fast as possible. I met Keith and we chatted over some strong coffee and he played me the track. It was a hard-hitting new jack swing track, and I listened a few times using my charting method, walked in, and I played it through without a mistake. I walked into the control room and Keith Forsey gave me a big old hug and said, “Mate, you nailed it.” From that point on, Keith Forsey started calling me, and that’s how I got a call to play with Simple Minds.
Keith Forsey wrote and produced “Don’t You Forget About Me” for Simple Minds, which was originally recorded for the movie The Breakfast Club. Keith wanted to have Simple Minds do another song that he had written for The Mario Brothers movie, and again he called me to play on it. Apparently, Jim and Charlie from simple Minds had a falling out with their drummer, Mel Gaynor, so Keith called me to play on one song. He said, “Bring any bass player you like.” I called my friend Mark Brown, and we did the session together. We came in and we played one song and it went really well. Then one song turned into four!
At that time I’d already recorded a full record with Foreigner and a half record with Foreigner, and I’d been touring with them for a couple of years. Simple Minds wanted me to play on the rest of their record, so when the Foreigner tour ended, I met them initially at their studio in Scotland to track mores songs. Then we traveled to Dublin and stayed in this mansion for a few weeks while we tracked more songs at U2’s studio, Windmill Lane. So I ended up playing on all but two tracks on the record because I was unavailable. They called Vinnie Colaiuta for one track and Tal for another.
The record, Good News From the Next World, featured the song “She’s a River,” which was a big hit in Europe. That was an interesting song to record. Keith wanted a huge signature fill to start the song, so we overdubbed the same fill about six times, slowing down and speeding up the tape recorder for each take so each take had the drums at a different pitch. It was great fun. Then Jim and Charlie offered me the tour. I thought it was time to make a change, so I left Foreigner to go on the road with Simple Minds.
On Billy Idol
Right before I got the call from Keith Forsey to play with Simple Minds, I got a call from him saying that Billy Idol’s drummer was unavailable, and they were going to be recording the end title theme for the movie Speed. I came in and recorded that track, and that went well and I befriended Billy and Steve Stevens, who’s still a friend of mine, and I ended up being Billy Idol’s drummer for eight years. We did some recording, touring, and writing. Billy didn’t work very often at the time, and that’s the only reason I left the band. But at one point I was playing with Foreigner, Simple Minds, and Billy Idol. Pinch me!
On Stevie Nicks
I got a call from Gregg Bissonette, who seemed to hear about every audition. [laughs] Gregg said that Stevie Nicks was going to be auditioning drummers. Now, at the time, I’d already been with Billy Idol. Stevie was auditioning drummers, so I went down and auditioned for her. They narrowed it down to a friend of mine and me. We were both teaching at L.A. Music Academy at the time. Billy Idol had two weeks of gigs that he was still going to do, and I needed the Stevie Nicks camp to tell me right away because she was offering four months of work as opposed to Billy’s two weeks! I called them up and said, “Listen, I’m not trying to put any pressure on you, but I need to know within the next day or so if I’m going to be doing this four-month tour with Stevie Nicks.” The tour was with Sheryl Crow, who’d produced some of Stevie’s record, and we would be her band for the tour as well. I think because they thought they might lose me, they decided to give me the gig. I ended up leaving the Billy Idol gig to go on the road with Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow for four months. That was one fun tour, especially with Lenny Castro on percussion.
On the Hired Gun documentary
P!nk’s guitarist, Justin Derrico, was talking about a documentary he had been interviewed for, and he recommended Eva Gardner (from P!nk) and me. The director, Fran Strine, came to my studio, and we did an interview. We got involved pretty late in the production, so we had small roles, but it was an honor to be asked to participate. It is quite an interesting saga of hired players who aren’t full band members. Even when I’ve been called “a band member,” I was paid a salary instead of being a financial stakeholder in the royalties, songwriting, and merchandise, although I had co-written a few songs with both Foreigner and Billy Idol. For thirty years I’ve been a “hired gun” of sorts, so this movie really resonated with me.
Cher’s farewell tour kicked off in 2002, and I ended up doing three years on the road with her. It was supposed to be about six months, and she ended up being the highest grossing female artist in pop music history after those three years, grossing about $330 million in ticket sales alone.
I’m a very fortunate man and I’ve had an amazingly illustrious career. And now I’m playing with the coolest artist on the planet, P!nk!
For more with Mark Schulman, check out his May 2019 feature cover story.